Discipline can be difficult. Parents don’t often think about the behaviours that will and will not be acceptable in their home while their child is little and then it seems like it’s too late to change the behaviour. It’s never too late. Here are some tips about discipline that any parent can use.
1. Do: Be clear about the rules
You can get mad after your child does something naughty, but it helps everyone if you lay out the rules before getting upset. At least your child will not be able to say he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to. It will help a lot of you not only go over the rules with your child, but display them in prominent areas of the home. The more your child can see the rules, the less he’ll be able to say he forgot. It will take time, so don’t get frustrated if you need to keep repeating the rules. Eventually they will stick. It’s hard to expect a child to follow the rules if he hasn’t been told what the rules are.
2. Don’t: Forget to talk about consequences
Now that your child is aware of the rules, she is going to test you. She is going to find out if you really mean what you’re saying. When you are talking about what the rules are, you will also need to explain what will happen if she breaks one of them. The consequence might be different for different rules or maybe they’re all the same. The consequences of breaking a rule should matter to your child though. For instance, if you say that they can’t play video games if they swear and your child doesn’t even like video games, she will not care about that consequence enough to stop swearing. Sometimes you will need to customize the consequence to the child. You can even make a list of the consequences along with the rules. She needs to know what’s coming when she breaks a rule.
3. Do: Be consistent
If you make a rule and set the consequences that go along with breaking a rule, you must stick to them. Yes, it’s hard work. But it’s well worth it. Children are smart, so if yours sees you not living up to something you said, he will know. And he’ll also know that breaking the rules has no consequences despite what you say. The actions matter just as much, if not more, than the verbal threats. While it will take time and energy, it’s important to always stick to your word.
4. Don’t: Give up too easily
An extension of the last point, it’s important that even when it seems like your rules and consequences aren’t working that you don’t give up. It could take, days, weeks or months for you to see that it’s really working. If behaviours don’t change immediately, don’t become frustrated and give up. Sticking with it is the only way to make sure that it will work. If you give up easily, not only will the behaviour continue, but your child will know that she has won. The consequences of giving up are worse than dealing with it for a few months.
5. Do: Reward good behaviour
We all like to be praised for our good work. Same goes with children. When you see or hear them doing something good, it’s important to praise that good behaviour. If you only comment on his bad actions, your child will only feel that everything he does is wrong. But if you praise him on his good actions, he’ll be more apt to be good just to hear that praise. No one likes to only hear the bad things we’re doing. Make it a habit to comment on all the good things you notice. If your child sees that you’re noticing, he’ll do what he can to be good. Children would rather get bad attention than no attention at all, so replace some of that negative attention with positive attention.
6. Don’t: Forget to lead by example
If you’re trying to get your child to quit swearing, it’s important that you don’t swear. If you don’t want your child to yell and/or become physical during an argument, it’s important that you show her how to do it in other ways. They will mimic whatever they see, especially from you, so why not set the best example that you can for them to follow? You can tell them how to act a million times, but they will more quickly catch on if they have a role model to follow. Be that role model.
7. Do: Start young
The best way to avoid having too many discipline problems is to start early. Teach your child from the beginning what is right and what is wrong. You don’t have to wait until your child is ten years old to start disciplining. It’s good for children of any age to learn that their actions have consequences. You might not start thinking about the habits you want to instil in your children while they are very small, but if you do you can teach them rather than attempt to change their behaviour when they are older.
The most important thing to remember about discipline is to stick with it. While everyone might struggle with it, in the end it will be for the best.